by Carolyn S. EllisMs. Ellis is Features Editor for LIFE&Health Advisor. Connect with her by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Angelia Shay, CLU, ChFC, LUTCF is founder and president of THE PATH Financial Strategies in Richmond, Virginia. She is currently president of WIFS, Women in Insurance & Financial Services, an organization that exists to attract, develop and advance women in financial services careers. We spoke with Angie about her personal success and her passion for sharing her values with women engaged in the industry and those considering the advisory career.
L&HA: One has to be multi-talented to succeed in the advisory field: entrepreneurial, comfortable in the spotlight, able to manage operations and develop staff. How do you make all this happen?
AS: I don’t believe any of us enter the advisory business having full revelation of being multi-faceted, multi-tasking, and multi-hat-wearing. My favorite movie is Batman Returns. I love the line when the dad says, “Son, why do we fall down?” The son looks at him and says, “So we can learn to get back up.” Most successful advisors I speak with across the country say they got very involved in industry organizations early in their careers. Their awareness of how to succeed was put on steroids because they could pick the brains of people a few steps ahead of them.
L&HA: Has this been your experience?
AS: Very early I got involved with NAIFA (National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors), then MDRT (Million Dollar Round Table), and later WIFS. My colleagues and I knew what we didn’t know either by failing and picking ourselves up again or by asking questions. Our industry is unique because so often your competitors will share with you what they do and how they do it.
L&HA: You recently became 78th president of Women in Insurance & Financial Services. Give us a snapshot of the organization and goals for your presidency.
AS: WIFS exists solely to attract, develop, and advance women in financial services. We’re not political or product-oriented. The number of women has grown since I entered the business but the numbers are still small, so WIFS is a useful forum that gives voice to women. Our focus this year is grass roots, getting to general agents and managers in their local marketplace and showing them how to develop women in their agencies and bring more in. We continue to develop our in-house mentoring program, Woman to Woman. It’s the only mentoring program in the industry created by women for women. We’re working within the organization on leadership development: how do we attract women to WIFS and create a culture of women leaders who aren’t afraid of the rejection that’s part of this business or being perceived as “overly confident.”
L&HA: How would you describe your current practice?
AS: Our firm works primarily with pre-retirees, retirees and small business owners. Our goal is to help them get their money in alignment with their deepest held values and then keep it there.
L&HA: You’ve said financial services chose you.
What do you mean?
AS: That’s a great question, because if you ask 100 advisors, you’ll find 100 different ways people got into this business. I’ve been licensed for about 25 years. Right out of school I was a bank teller. A manager for an insurance company used to bring his deposits in. He needed somebody who could count money accurately and quickly, so he offered me a job. I was barely 19 at the time. I quickly realized that I knew the answers to questions that most of his guys earning 4-5 times my salary were asking me. I love people, so I went to the manager and told him I wanted to do what they were doing. In the State of Virginia you had to be 21 to have a debit, so I waited a couple of years and then jumped in.
L&HA: That’s amazing.
AS: Once I started my debit, I found I had a thirst for helping people. I got involved with NAIFA very early and got a better understanding of how far the industry reached. I took my LUTCF (Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow) classes and in 1994 after interviewing 11 different companies I joined New York Life.
L&HA: You’re a champion for the wisdom and grace of midlife and have been featured in several books about successful women in their 40s. Are you finding that’s about the time when people wake up and begin financial planning?
AS: In their 30s people can only think about raising their kids. When they head into their 40s they realize, wow, I’ve got to think about some things other than how to do the best job with my family. I wish the media talked more about the financial awareness of today’s younger adults. I’m having a lot more 20-somethings, the kids of my clients, come in to talk. When I entered the advisory business I couldn’t get a 25-year-old to sit down and talk to me about saving money for anything.
I’m intrigued by these client children who ask great questions and implement suggestions, albeit on a small scale. In some ways 2008 was a blessing. The crash hurt while we were in it, but the reality is we have become smarter consumers and smarter advisors. The crash of 2008 and the fact that things tightened up have made this younger generation more thoughtful and savvy.
L&HA: You find many younger adults today are financially responsible?
AS: Today’s young adults have a good attitude about debt. I’ve had 24- and 25-year-olds coming in with $6,000 – 7,000 in savings and I’ve got 40-year-olds who have barely saved $2,000. It’s a huge shift in attitude about money. We 40-year-olds are horrible with money; credit was cheap, so we want instant gratification, buy now and pay later.
L&HA: You describe your advisory practice as holistic,
a term we often hear today.
AS: I am a very relational person. Before I can be confident in any recommendation that I make, I must know the complete picture. I look at everything the clients owns and owes. I look at all factors that relate to health, family, risks, personality and habits. The more I know, the better I can serve. This whole process can help me create plans that will make life-changing impact.
L&HA: What is the biggest challenge to attracting women
to the field?
AS: For years, I have been blessed to speak across the country at many industry events. For the past five years I have served on the Executive Committee for WIFS. I have had hundreds of conversations about this question. Most women want security. The fear factor of “how am I going to get paid” hinders many women from coming into the business. You have to invest 6, 7, or 8 years working 55-60 hours a week learning your craft for a modest income, but you could equate this to medical or graduate school. Typically careers with higher income require this kind of investment. This industry is special because when you are established you can devote a reasonable amount of time to your practice and spend other hours volunteering for organizations you value. I believe that explaining the business process this way helps them put it into perspective.
L&HA: What closing thoughts do you have for agents and advisors?
AS: Consumers need us. Our numbers are shrinking. As the financial marketplace continues to get more complicated, consumers will have fewer and fewer true professionals to serve them. Our industry needs to be working together to bring more advisors in the business. We need to be actively engaged in organizations like WIFS and NAIFA. These institutions educate, protect and develop better advisers.